People-centric R and R policy is necessary


    Development projects are constantly crucial to achieve rapid economic progress and prosperity in a developing country like India. Now-a-days tribal development has been the core of many debates, assuming great significance in the light of displacement. This book is an excellent supplement in this field of study. The volume under review presents under one canopy, varied dimensions of degraded environment and victimized human beings, development projects and displaced tribal groups. The Preface by the author himself with focus on the crucial problem at the implementation level (which is primarily responsible for poor translation of policy in to practice) sets the foundation of the debate ahead in the ensuing chapters. The author has integrated psychological, sociological and at times logical approaches to tribal developmental studies and has analyzed the entire process through empirical data base. The experimental study has been conducted in four completed projects located in thickly concentrated tribal pockets of Odisha. The language used in the book is smooth and simply accessible. This is one of the very few successful attempts in this vast subject especially oriented to the displaced and dispossessed tribal groups of Odisha.

    The objective of the present study is to assess and find out the status of the displaced tribal groups in the post project period along with their extent of livelihood restoration identifying the factors responsible for non-restoration of livelihood .It also comes up with specific modifications in the existing R & R policy including provision of special packages specifically targeted for the tribal people. The key anthropological and sociological tools and techniques used by the author for data collection are schedule, interview schedule, case study, focus group discussion and participatory rural appraisal.

    The volume has been divided into eight separate chapters inter linked with each other. 

    In Chapter – 1, the author has left no stone unturned to reflect the pragmatic points of view of displacement and its concomitant hardships like deprivation, destruction of symbiotic relationship between man and nature, increasing environmental pollution, deforestation, loss of agricultural land and marginalization of the poor and the weaker sections in the project area. In author’s words, “While the nation at large enjoys the benefits of “spread effects”, the local population in the project area bears the brunt of the backwash effects and the fury of nature”. He has repeatedly raised this issue, of course with pity and empathy, throughout the chapter. According to him, often the cost benefit analysis of development projects concentrates solely on economic loss and gain, completely ignoring the social costs of a project. He is also quite critical about the present pattern of development as it is based on the strategy of building multi- purpose dams and erection of large industries and power plants, excavation of mines, construction of urban infrastructure projects, linear projects like roads, railways etc with emphasis on the measurement of GNP oriented growth which hides the level of inequalities it generates in the economy.

    As per the various case studies done by scholars as many as 75% of the displaced people have not been rehabilitated suitably and their income sources and livelihoods have not been restored properly. According to the author, this is a blatant violation of both the Fundamental Rights - the right to settle and reside anywhere in the country (Art-19(1) (e)) and the right to life and livelihood (Art-21). This also implies de facto lack of social justice and inequality in the involuntary settlement process .He is also immensely dejected about the fact that a qualitative assessment of the living conditions of the displaced groups in the post project period has seldom been attempted. It is crucially important to examine and assess the livelihood restoration status of the displaced and the factors responsible for non- restoration of their livelihood as well as the poor resettlement and rehabilitation of the displaced tribal families in case of completed projects so that the lessons learnt can be used as important tips for planners and implementing agencies ensuring a better deal for them in future.

    Chapter-2 focuses on the background of the study with global, national and provincial considerations. The case has been found more or less same everywhere. The estimate by researchers reveals that barely 25% of the people displaced by developmental projects have been resettled by the Government or project authorities. Even they have failed to retain their pre-project living conditions in the post-project period. The inventions and applications of modern science and technology for the improvement of the standard of living of human beings have led to many undesirable consequences all over the world. Displacement causes a great deal of social disorganization, dismantles production systems and community structures, brings economic marginalization, increases poverty and has negative environmental effects. The author desolately avers that human displacement has become an inseparable companion of the present mode of economic development.

    In Chapter-3 the profile of the projects in Odisha i.e. Upper Kolab Hydro Electric Project; Mahanadi Coal fields Limited (MCL), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Harabhangi Irrigation Project have been widely discussed in detail focusing on their associated land acquisition and rehabilitation problems, rehabilitation policy and package, some of the solved and unsolved submergence problems, amenities and troubles of rehabilitation camps etc. .

    Displacement of human population and their resettlement may be considered as the most aching process in a society.

    Chapter - 4 deals with such asensitive issuethrowing light on the reasons behind the failure of resettlement policy in India and Odisha as well. According to the author, it is mainly due to the absence of a well- defined R & R policy of the implementing authority of the development projects as they deal too much with the technical and economic aspects and grossly ignore the cultural, sociological and ecological aspects of rehabilitation. Even the technical and economic issues of the displaced people are taken up in a hurry at the top level without any involvement and participation of the affected group in the policy making process. This chapter also highlights R & R policy of Odisha, its implementation pattern, strengths and weaknesses, objectives, patterns of land acquisition and payment of compensation etc.

    Forced or induced displacement causes significant changes – economic, social and cultural – in the lives of the displaced people.

    Chapter – 5 is designed to identify the socio-cultural and economic lives of the dispossessed ones in post- project period. The author has adopted a wide spectrum of indicators to assess the socio- economic conditions of the people prior to and after displacement. It includes study of demographic composition and family structure, living pattern, housing pattern, land holding pattern, occupational pattern, cropping pattern, dependence on tree, forest, livestock, assets structure, and various sources of income, expenditure pattern, savings and indebtedness etc.

    Chapter-6 presentssome critical areas of concern relating to development related displacement and resettlement of human population in a new localitywhich has multiple effects such as economic , sociological, cultural, psychological, ecological in the centre and periphery. The author is very handy and down-to-earth while highlighting the critical areas like lack of basic amenities, non-availability of wage work and herbal medicines, dangers of blasting, decline in the role of women and relationship in the family level due to disruption of their sources of earning etc in the resettlement colonies. As a result of the mode of paying compensation through cash, as the author’s observing eyes register, the male folks have been led towards the harmful effects of alcoholism and domestic conflicts along with social crimes like rape, molestation, child abuse etc in these areas. Increasing difficulties in arranging marriage for daughters have also been found in almost every settlement colony.

    Chapter- 7 points out the critical issues to be looked at while setting up a new project. The author’s psychosomatic and matter-of-fact observations find place of prominence throughout the chapter. According to him, recognition of human rights of the indigenous people, enhancement of the capacity of the community and building of a relationship of trust and understanding between the project authority and the native people are the inevitable steps towards the formulation of a sustainable development agenda. Adoption of risk control mechanism in the proposed area in consultation with the aboriginal community much before the initiation of a project and protection of the sovereignty and dignity of the people will reduce the probability of resistance by the tribal people. Again he avows that a prudent approach should be followed which demands long term commitments, innovative solutions, financial and institutional guarantees and the use of professionals experienced in dealing with the issues of social development and native people.

    Chapter - 8 summarizes the effects of displacement compactly in a few lines with the author’s own specific remarks. As per the findings of studies, he affirms, the cash compensation (according to the recorded market rate of land and house properties) rarely compensates the losses borne by the displaced people. Therefore he suggests two vital things which need to be nurtured well.

a) That the cash compensation should be fixed at double of the prevailing market price. The project authority or the Govt. should develop the resettlement colonies and clusters with all sorts of amenities at least one year before the submergence of the original village.

b) That as far as possible, all the displaced families should be given opportunities to reside in one cluster in the immediate hinterland of the same eco-cultural region and the neighborhood settings may be planned according to the old village, so that the people will feel minimum pain of displacement and socio-psychological problem of alienation.

To conclude here, the author is to be congratulated for weighing the different facets of a sensitive human issue like displacement. A few numbers of photos on the dwelling conditions of the post- project areas have also been incorporated in the book to provide a visual account to the readers. All the chapters explore the current challenges to nature, society and mankind at large, concurrently throwing some critical questions towards the thoughtful readers. Lastly, I think, the message of the whole book rests in the very last lines of the last paragraph of the book.

“The development projects can’t be stopped …… However, it is well under the control of the Government to make rehabilitation less painful for the displaced and this is feasible by designing and evolving spatial and people-specific R & R policy from project to project and also a consensual R & R policy measures for all projects affected persons at the macro level”.